Quality Onboarding for High Productivity and Retention

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The feeling of finding a solid candidate to fill an open slot on a team is typically a mix of excitement, gratitude, and relief.  The excitement and gratitude are self-explanatory, but the relief is felt because the hiring process, when done well, takes time and attention away from other responsibilities.

I’ve made the common mistake of believing that because I’ve hired a highly experienced, talented person, they’ll slide right into the position and understand what they need to do to thrive. Besides, I’d set my other projects aside for too long, and I needed to get back to business as usual.

I quickly learned that although hiring a star is a critical first step in ensuring that an employee is successful, there is an equally important second step – onboarding.

The purpose of onboarding is to develop a productive employee who stays with the company long-term. If you skip over the onboarding process, it could take months for the new hire to get into the groove.  Or worse, they never feel at-home and end up leaving within the first year.

You’ve been short-staffed while you were working on filling the role, so you need to do everything you can to get the newbie fully productive as quickly as possible.  Your charge is to build a productive, cohesive team, and a solid onboarding program will help you do just that!

Let’s explore what exactly onboarding is and what it looks like in action.

What is Onboarding?

It’s not software.  Onboarding software excels at helping you administer parts of the onboarding process efficiently, but the software isn’t onboarding; it’s a tool to help you deliver it.

It’s also not an orientation to the employment handbook and benefits, giving the person a tour and introducing him/her to coworkers, nor is it training them on company-specific processes.

It is all these things, and more, rolled together and laid out in a logical manner.

Onboarding is the process of integrating new hires into the organization and their jobs faster and easier than it happen would without the process.

Onboarding begins when the person accepts the job offer and ends when all the parts of the process are completed and when the employee feels comfortable in their new role.

Depending on the complexity of the job, this can take anywhere from a few weeks to a full year.

Onboarding has the following primary objectives for the new hires:

  • Understand and acclimate to company culture
  • Develop competence and confidence in the work
  • Socialize and build relationships
  • Complete administrative tasks and documentation
  • Cultivate engagement and commitment to the organization

All onboarding activities support the achievement of one or more of these goals.  Let’s take a look at what some of the activities look like in the general order they typically occur.

Pre-Day One: Show Your Commitment

The time between when a person accepts an offer and the day they start work is a critical period because you have the highest chance of losing them. This can happen for a couple of reasons.

First, they may get cold feet.  If they are leaving an industry or company they’ve been in for a while, the impending change, while initially exciting, may become overwhelming.

Second, they may take another job. If the individual was actively looking for work when they accepted your offer, other job offers may come in and entice them away.

So, make sure this time isn’t filled with paperwork and radio silence, but rather do everything you can to continue to “court” them until the wedding day.

Keeping in contact via email, mail, and phone can do wonders to begin to solidify the relationship and make them feel comfortable.

Sending them company logo wear or a gift basket is a nice touch if you can do it.

If the individual is moving into the area to take the job or if the waiting period is extended, you’ll need to kick your efforts up a notch because both things increase the probability of the deal falling through.

This is often the most overlooked part of onboarding because an accepted offer feels like a done deal, and we all have so many other tasks to move on to.  But these can be small points of contact that don’t take a lot of time.

You’ve invested too much into getting to this point, so don’t make the mistake of taking a new hire for granted.

Day One: Roll Out the Red Carpet

During the post-offer, pre-start day period, you’ll also be getting everything ready for the person’s first day. Your goalA manager welcoming a new employee. is to set the environment to make them feel comfortable and welcome.

This includes making sure the workspace is available, clean, and stocked with all the tools they need to get started.  Remember items that need a longer lead time such as ordering business cards.  Get those printed so they are on their desk when they arrive.

Prepare an onboarding schedule, including a detailed agenda for day one. The first day on a new job is nerve-wracking for most people.  Easing them into work, giving them the tools they need, and making the day special sends a strong message to the new hire that they are important, wanted, and welcome.

Consider day one activities such as:

  • taking them to lunch or having lunch on-site for the team
  • conducting a formal orientation to the culture, values, company goals, organizational structure, employment handbook, and benefits
  • giving them a job description and show them where they can find manuals and procedures
  • taking them on a tour so they can get the lay of the land, and introduce them to coworkers

These are just a few ideas of things you can do to ensure they have what they need to get started working, begin to get accustomed to the culture, and start to build relationships across the organization.

Day Two and on: Support, Support, Support

From day two forward, the focus on training will be heavy.  You’ll want to schedule training with coworkers, other departments, and vendors, as well as online or external training.  But also remember that a new person will still be acclimating to the culture, and they might need help doing that.

One way to help a new person transition into the organization smoothly is to make sure they are set up with a supportive coworker.  These relationships don’t have to be formal or structured, but the person taking on the buddy role should agree to take on the task, and the purpose should be explained to the new hire.

As their supervisor, make sure you have daily check-ins with the new hire for the first few weeks.  When you both agree the time is right, you can transition into weekly meetings.

Depending on the person and the job, you may be able to quickly transition into monthly meetings.  Just make sure you do this because the meetings are not needed, rather than because you’re too busy.

You’ll be in a honeymoon phase for a while, which may lull you into thinking they don’t need as much time with you.  However, honeymoons don’t last forever, and the best way to be aware of what the person is thinking, feeling, and doing is to hold regular coaching sessions.

In addition to regular meetings where you’ll be sharing feedback informally, give the new person written feedback at 45 and 90 days and every 90 days after that for as long as it’s useful to the two of you.

Another effective way to keep your finger on the pulse of how your new hire is feeling is to send them surveys.  Plan to send surveys at 45 days, 90 days at a minimum, and consider continuing with 6 and 9-month surveys.  Often people will express in writing what they don’t feel comfortable expressing verbally.

Worth the Investment

Taking the time to get a new person started right does take time. But is much easier in the long run than letting themCoworkers welcoming a new employee. struggle through it on their own.

It’s like the difference between asking them to walk around their new work setting blindfolded and removing that blindfold for them.

Your patience will be rewarded with a happy, productive team member who is committed to you and the organization for years to come.

Share Your Experience

What was your best new hire experience like?  You can leave your answer in a comment below, so we can all generate more ideas to build the ideal onboarding experience!

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